CLAYTON, Mo. – A St. Louis County judge’s ruling means a lawsuit can move forward over a fatal work zone crash that could’ve been prevented.
On Nov. 18, 2021, a driver on Telegraph Road crashed through a work zone over Interstate 270. Missouri Department of Transportation employees James Brooks and Kaitlyn Anderson died. Anderson was six months pregnant at the time of her death, with a child she had named Jaxx.
“Finally, there’s going to be justice and accountability in the death of my daughter and grandson,” Tonya Musskopf, Kaitlyn’s mother, said via Zoom from her home in Florida.
Last fall, Musskopf traveled to the Missouri Capitol to request safety changes.
MoDOT policy requires a protective vehicle in place as a buffer between traffic and road workers, but it was not in place on the day Brooks and Anderson were killed.
MoDOT recently tried to evade responsibility in the lawsuit by making a legal argument that Kaitlyn’s unborn baby was an employee.
“What they’re hoping is they don’t pay anything,” attorney Andrew Mundwiller said January, shortly after the bizarre claim.
Mundwiller explained that workers’ comp already refused to pay out because Kaitlyn was not married and her baby Jaxx did not survive. That’s why the family is suing MoDOT for damages, with MoDOT then answering that Jaxx was an employee.
“If they were to get someone to buy that, then that means your case is dismissed out of St. Louis County, go to the comp system, where they’re going to take a different position, just like they did initially,” Mundwiller said.
“How can they say an unborn child is their employee? It didn’t make sense,” Musskopf said.
A judge agreed it did not make sense, ruling on March 29 “(MoDOT’s) statutory interpretation of the workers’ compensation law to exclude Jaxx Jarvis’ claims here would lead to an extremely absurd result.”
The judge added, “Jaxx Jarvis’ independent claims as an unborn child are just as strong as if he was outside his mother’s womb next to her at the time of his death from the accident.”
“(The judge) made his decision on what would have been Jaxx’s first birthday, so I’m taking that as a sign from Kaitlyn that she’s going to help me fight MoDOT, and she’s going to help me get through this,” Musskopf said.
Meanwhile, Mundwiller said the fight is far from over, but the ruling is an important hurdle for them to clear in their battle to get a trial by jury.
Musskopf will return to Missouri soon to continue her “Slow Down, Move Over” campaign, and to push for legislation that would increase the liability of employers who break safety rules.